WORK by MALVIKA RAJ
Malvika Raj draws from a repertoire of heritage arts, stories and traditions as a Dalit, Buddhist and feminist. Hailing from Patna in east India, she deploys traditional Madhubani art forms that are conventionally centred around high caste Hindu narratives to depict instead Navayana (‘new vehicle’) Buddhist themes.
Inspired by ancient Buddhism to highlight the religion adopted by Dalits and their agency in ensuring it thrives, 'Into the Woods' (2020) and 'Sujata' (2014) captures the invisibilised care of the bahujan (‘marginalised masses’) who kept Buddha's body and soul together after periods of penance.
Into the Woods (2020)
In 'Quantum Leap' (2020), the pinnacle of bahujan agency is visibilised through portraying the Dalit jurist and writer of the Indian Constitution, B. R. Ambedkar, in a soaring whirl of imagery that leads to the heart of power in Indian governance.
Quantum Leap (2020)
Part of a series titled 'Journey', the three interrelated works connect the self-determination of contemporary Dalits to premodern Buddhism via the bridge of Navayana Buddhism as theorised and propagated by Ambedkar. Here religion, instead of an 'opium of the masses' becomes an antidote against oppression and part of rational praxis for emancipation.